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A few weeks ago, I had the honour and privilege of appearing on the “Real Talk with Rob Tavi” web series.

In the episode, Rob and I talked about Lectrix’s own personal journey from publishing house to marketing agency, and how we’re helping B2B electronics companies find their digital marketing footing. It was a true pleasure, please watch the video to see for yourself.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar, Rob is the managing director at IBS Electronics Group. As the pandemic rocked our businesses and way of life, he decided to leverage his industry knowledge and desire to connect with others into Real Talk, a weekly video series in which he sits down (virtually) with electronics industry professionals and has a chat about what’s changed, what hasn’t, pitfalls and inspirations, it runs the gamut.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Should you need a transcript, you can find one below the video.

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Transcript

Rob Tavi [RT]:
And we’re live. Welcome everybody to another great episode of Real Talk. Today I’m bringing someone that I actually met about six months ago, who was doing a lecture in a conference about marketing, digital marketing, and we really connected at that point.

His name is Graham Kilshaw from Lectrix, and his company specializes in the electronic components industry, heavily focused on component manufacturers and also distributors and reps. And he’s one of the thought leaders, a speaker, someone in the industry that I look up to, that I learn from every day. And today he’s on the Real Talk. So, welcome!

RT
Hey Graham, how are you?

Graham Kilshaw [GK]:
Hey, Rob, I’m delighted to be on your show today. Thanks for having me on.

RT:
Oh, thank you for coming on. Thank you for doing all this. It’s been so good to see you and now we’re connecting digitally, the digital age and I get the whole side how we met, the first time we met and I really appreciate it, and we’ve been connected through the last six months. We’ve done some things together.

GK:
We have. We have.

RT:
And actually, as I said, your company as I said is very… as I said, you are intertwined into all the associations, electronic component distribution, manufacturing. And for myself, it’s like in our industry as distributor or in the industry itself is creating the awareness out there. And of course, yourself, is creating awareness for the marketing and has been really in the trenches from 40 plus years ago. So I really thank you for everything you’ve done and I follow you every day. I see your content. It’s fantastic.

GK:
Yeah.

RT:
But really-

GK:
I feel like we’re a little connected at the hip on LinkedIn these days, right?

RT:
Yeah. We are. We are. I know we’re remote. I know you’re working from remotely. I know I can see a little beach house. So where are you at right now?

GK:
Yeah. I’m on vacation on the New Jersey shore right now, but-

RT:
And you’re still working, on your vacation.

GK:
I’m delighted to take an hour or two away from the beach and have a chat with you.

RT:
Oh. Thank you so much. Thank you so much on that. I mean, I want to start really as myself also and probably audience out there really understand, who is Graham Kilshaw and who is Lectrix and the origin of the foundation of that.

GK:
Sure. Well, I ask myself those questions pretty often too. Well, my accent sort of gives me a way a little bit, right? So I’m not from the Jersey shore. I live outside Philadelphia. I’ve been in the States 25 years this year. I became a citizen about 15 years ago, or as I like to tell my buddies, I’m an American by choice. When they rip me up about being British I say, “Well, I’m actually an American by choice.” Just a joke.

But I came here 25 years ago when I got married. I grew up in Boston, England, which most people have never heard of, most people are surprised to learn there is a Boston in England, and if you go and spend five minutes on Wikipedia, you’ll pretty quickly figure out that’s how Boston, Massachusetts got its name and that’s really where the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned, and the whole story of America began in Boston, England. And that’s my hometown.

RT:
Oh, really? I did not know the depth of that, but wow. I didn’t know that.

GK:
Yeah, it’s a lost piece of history. It’s a small town that goes back to about the year of 900. I grew up there in the late sixties. And then post-college moved to London. I worked for a British newspaper called News of the World. Right out of college I had an unusual job. I was a sommelier on a cruise ship called the Sea Princess off the coast of Alaska and San Francisco and then all down the Pacific. I spent six months as a sommelier. That’s my — everybody’s got a strange job–

RT:
That is a talent, huh?

GK:
–That was mine.

RT:
A strange talent… Oh, wow. Now I know when we ever go to a restaurant, who’s ordering the wine.

GK:
Right. Right. That’s a little lost education gone as well, but… And then in the early nineties I was hired by Walt Disney Company and spent a few years working for the Euro Disney project, which later became known as Disneyland Paris. And that’s partly how I ended up in the States in New York, in the mid-nineties.

RT:
So did you start from the beginning of that? Was that the Disneyland? Was it before it was built or were you there while it was-

GK:
I joined them. I was actually working for the newspaper, for News of the World, which if anybody remembers anything about British tabloid newspaper history, this was the newspaper which Rupert Murdoch shut down-

RT:
Oh wow.

GK:
…because the journalists were tapping into people’s cell phone voicemail. And it was a terrible thing. They were really being bad people. So he shut the newspaper down, but it’s part of Murdoch’s group, The Sun and so on. And whilst working there, I ran into the guys running the Disney offices in the UK and they said, “Hey, do you want to come and join us?” So I jumped the fence from tabloid newspapers and went to work for Mickey Mouse.

RT:
Yeah. And then you started… You jumped as they call it, jumped over “the pond,” back to the States, ended up in the States, right?

GK:
Well, that I have to thank my beautiful wife for. She was a student studying in London semester abroad. I think they call it. And we met in a London pub and the rest is history as they say.

RT:
Wow.

GK:
So we came back here in ’95 and got married. I left Disney and then a couple of years later, how I got into the electronics industry was my late father-in-law, Robert Goldblum, who passed away just last year. He was one of the first electronics engineers to start to understand this whole world of interference, radio interference, which is now often referred to as electromagnetic interference or EMI.

And so while working for GE in Philadelphia on a lot of military projects, he started the first publication for the world of radio interference and it was called item ITEM, I-T-E-M. That was an acronym that stood for Interference Technology Engineer’s Master. People say to me, where does the word ITEM come from? So in the late nineties, as he retired I bought the publication from him, always wanted to run my own company, run a small business and spent the last 20 years really running ITEM.

And then five years ago, as we looked at the writing on the wall for how marketing was shifting in the electronics industry, in the components industry, we realized that we really needed to really make a big change in how the model for our business. And out of that, Lectrix was born as essentially a specialist sales and marketing agency for the electronics industry. And that’s how we get here.

RT:
Wow. There’s the story. As I said, every company has a story. Every brand has a story and there’s a story. It’s very fascinating. I love how everything comes together. You started in UK and started getting into the journalism side, getting into the publication side and all of a sudden, you met your wife there and then you came over and worked for Disney and worked with different corporations and now you’re in the… Look at this 20 something years later, you’re CEO of Lectrix and you’re the succession I would say of ITEM, correct? This succession has-

GK:
-Yeah.

RT:
…come and that’s the thing, every story has a succession and you a successor of that and really transformed it. So for me obviously I was fascinated. I’ve done a lot of history a bit back. I’m trying to check out Lectrix what they do in the past. I’ve watched a lot of your videos, a lot of your seminars you put on, because you host a lot of things for an ERA or ECI, all the big associations for semiconductor companies and you really lead and are a thought leader in that process.

And everybody looks at… As I said, myself, looks up to you. I didn’t, as I said, I didn’t know who we were until you spoke at the conference and I’m like, “Wow, he knows what he knows what he’s doing and this is the person I need to connect with. This is what I need to build exposure.” And it’s been so fascinating.

GK:
Thank you, Rob.

RT:
No, it’s been… Thank you so much on this. So for Lectrix, let’s break that down. Let’s go back to Lectrix.

GK:
Sure.

RT:
So ITEM was from that point. So how has ITEM, from the past to the present, how has it transformed into Lectrix and what are the services that you did, but in the past and present and for the future moving forward?

GK:
So like a lot of, I hope one day great businesses, it started in a garage. Without going too far back… and I think we’ve got a photo of that.

RT:
Yeah, we can put that up. Yeah.

GK:
My father-in-law started the business in a garage in suburban Philadelphia, moved out of there to various offices around the city. And now Lectrix funny enough is located only a half a mile from that garage. So we’ve kind of gone full circle. But the business has really evolved very much since ’71, ’72. And I think we’ve also got a picture somewhere of that very first issue published in 1972. We’ve still got it.

RT:
I’ve got that to put that up as well.

GK:
And we still publish in print as well. So for 20 years it was very much a pure trade publisher. And that’s really where I got my experience of the electronics industry and sort of learned to navigate the whole, I call it the three-legged stool of the component maker, the distributor and the rep.

But I was only looking at it through the lens of the world of interference. As we realized that marketing was changing in the electronics industry and we needed to make some serious changes at ITEM Media, then we started looking outside of interference and started to look at well, what about all the other verticals? What about all the other silos of components and test equipment and materials and services. It’s not limited to components. But you read a lot these days about disruption, right, Rob?

RT:
Yes.

GK:
I mean, everywhere we look, companies are being faced with “disruption.” I wish I could say it was a conscious decision. It wasn’t, but we ended up going through a process of self-disruption and that’s a phrase you don’t see too much, but if you Google it, you’ll find some interesting articles on it.

And essentially rather than wait for the industry to either destroy us or minimize us, we made a proactive choice to sort of tear the company down in about 2016. I was at a point then where it was… we were going to have a changeover of employees and I took that opportunity rather than having to let a lot of people go. And we’re only 15 employees now still, but to take that opportunity for change and go and look for more of that digital marketing skillset, as opposed to the publishing skillset.

And then from there, it was really the long road to where we are today. But that’s not something you do overnight. Self-disruption is not an easy choice. I have to say it’s been a very tough road the last five years, but one of the key things that I learned from it is… You have read the book Good to Great?

RT:
Yes. Fantastic book.

GK:
Can’t remember his last name now who wrote it. Brilliant book. But chapter one is all about getting the right people on the bus, right. Do you remember the first chapter of Good to Great?

RT:
Well, it’s-

GK:
You got to get the right-

RT:
Yeah, people. Yes.

GK:
… people on the bus. And it’s so, so true. I was fortunate to hire a senior team of really great people and they all come from the electronics industry. So without them… Shout out to Geoff and Chris and Michele in particular, we never ever would have built Lectrix to where we are today.

And finally, like a lot of small businesses, it takes three to five years before you really get the traction. Another chapter I think in Good to Great. And then finally the big flywheel starts to turn, and we’re really starting to see growth and traction this year. Thank goodness.

RT:
You know what? I love how you put that, the Good to Great. And also there’s… I think we talked about this, the Simon Sinek book, the Infinite Game.

GK:
Yes.

RT:
Yeah. And that’s-

GK:
I’m reading that right now, actually here at the beach this week. Funny you bring it up.

RT:
And they’re similar in ages, just thinking the future. You have to put the time and effort. And one thing you bring that back is I love how you transition. There’s succession happening. You want to bring in new talent, the digital revolution, bring in more talent that’s more versed in digital age and bring them together. And it’s about a team. It’s not about vertical, it’s all horizontal management. Everybody works together and that’s really prevalent and really, as I said, the epitome of building teams today is everybody works together to rise everybody all together. We rise together.

GK:
Right.

RT:
It’s not… We all know back many years ago, it was kind of very vertical. There was a leader and everybody followed the leader. Now everybody leads their own part. Everybody has a part in the mission. Everybody has a part. They’re vested in it and really changes that to take us… It doesn’t matter the size of the company. It can be a small business to large business. It’s very similar. It’s just the scale’s changed. Everybody has to work together.

And the vision, I love that you had a vision – when you make a change and the challenge to really take the risk, put yourself out there, and make a change. And all of a sudden, I know some days you’re like, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I going the right direction?”

GK:
Sure.

RT:
“Is this working?” We all are like that.

GK:
You question.

RT:
You question yourself, you keep questioning it. And by the end of the day is you showed up every day, you were consistent. You stayed with the team, you stayed with the mission and within three to five years, all of a sudden now the fruits are… now there’s low hanging fruits coming and they’re growing and they’re there and now there’s time for the pickings and the revenue starts generating, but nothing is….

To put it, as I always say, you put in the reps, you always have to put in the reps, you always have to put it in and you have to show up and show up every day. Show up for your team, show up for everybody. And I love that story. And it’s interesting. A lot of people listening, it seems like, “Hey, we made a shift and it was challenging.”

GK:
It’s doable and I’m glad you brought that up. I think you’re so right. This question of the horizontal versus the vertical organization. Because I talk about this quite a bit at Lectrix. We are a very horizontal organization. And what I mean by that, when I talk to people about it is that it isn’t the traditional structure of Graham is the CEO. He tells people what they do and they go do it. In some respects, it’s almost the reverse.

Going from being a traditional publishing company to a digital marketing strategy company I didn’t have all of those skills five years ago. And so it was really quite a humbling process for me to hire a team of people who are 10, 20 years my junior, but their skillset in digital marketing then and even today in many areas were so much greater than mine. We really had to become a horizontal organization. In other words, everybody respects each others’ skillset. And we had to work together very much as a team.

It wasn’t going to be a period of, “Well, we’ll listen to what Graham says and we’ll do what Graham says.” It just wouldn’t have worked. And I’ve had to learn a whole new job, you know, and I’m past the halfway point in life, probably. So having to do that at that age, after having run a company a certain way for 20 years, it really was quite a humbling experience, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was a great experience.

RT:
That’s what makes great leaders. That’s what making you… You nailed it. That’s what makes great leaders. Well done, Graham. I really take my hats– because I think a lot of people have that, the self-confidence, not being able to have the confidence to put themselves out there and take those risks, and understanding your skillset, bringing in people. Myself as well. Even though I bring in people and it’s like everybody’s a team, everybody’s an asset. I invest in those people. I don’t know, I’m not the smartest person in the room. I realized if I’m the smartest person in the room–

GK:
I keep saying–

RT:
–then I’m in the wrong room. That’s what–

GK:
Me, I’m the same.

RT:
Yeah. That’s the way as we all say, that’s a problem. You shouldn’t be there. But moving forward now to really how, as I say, taking Lectrix. Now you established yourself, what are the services and what merely makes Lectrix unique in the electronics industry for the component and distribution representatives out there?

GK:
Yeah. Good question. I think when we made the conscious decision five years ago, and by the way, we didn’t actually even change the name until 2019. We continued as ITEM Media for two or three years before we were ready to make the change. But what makes us unique? That was an evolutionary thing.

I think we just thought, well, first off we did some research and we asked existing clients, “Hey, clearly your needs are changing. What are your needs?” And their answer was everything. Everything in marketing, we need help with everything in marketing. So that led us to think, “Okay, well, we’ll be a marketing agency.” But it really, I would say in about the three to four year mark, started to evolve into something that has become, I believe quite unique. And that is our focus on sales, measurability, and ROI.

There’s a lot of marketing agencies out there that could do a very, very decent job of marketing for any components company. One of things that makes us unique is that I made a conscious decision that I’m only going to hire people into the senior team who come from the electronics industry. And as part of growth, for example, we just hired Bill Baumann, who some people will know. He’s our new VP of business development.

Bill ran the entire electronics media group at Penton up until that was sold about three years ago. So Bill’s got 30 years of experience in the industry, and it’s that experience that allows the team to very quickly translate the goals of a client into something that actually makes sense in our world, because we’re very different from other industries like software and pharmaceuticals. We’ve got distributors and reps. We have channels of sales and marketing. Other industries typically don’t have those.

So our focus probably about two years ago, we realized, “Hey, you know what? I think what our clients really need is somebody that’s going to give them real ROI on the marketing spend.” And so now we’ve become very, very focused on that. Very, very focused.

We just put out a case study three, four months ago for one of our clients, Schaffner, who make EMI filters. That first one took us almost two years to write the case study of how we actually track real sales, real purchase orders, real customers tied back to specific episodes in the marketing campaign, but we actually did it and we believe it was a real first. So that’s become a unique selling point.

RT:
It’s your benchmark now. No, that’s great. That’s a success that need to share. And you’re right, creating that awareness out there in the digital age and everything has changed and — being able to measure, at the end of the day, we’re all about measurement.

And I think in our industry, there’s only very few companies that do it well. I think a lot of other companies just kind of throw it out there and see if it sticks, but they have the name, they have the brand or the products, that’s how then… It’s all a relationship game at that point.

But when it comes to marketing and the succession of the changing of digital age and connecting with people, especially now in a pandemic… six months ago we were completely different on marketing side, and that’s one thing I want to ask you is, how has that shifted and how has that accelerated, say from February to current, now we’re almost in September? How have you guys embraced the change and how are your customers’ feedback, and what are you guys doing moving forward?

GK:
Yeah. You asked me this question when we were preparing for this call last week, Rob. So I’d been thinking about it. By the way, I can’t believe it’s only six months since you and I met in Austin, Texas. It seems like it was a couple of years ago.

RT:
I know it’s…

GK:
It just shows you how much has happened in the last six months obviously.

RT:
Yes.

GK:
….But boy has time flown by. So yeah, I was thinking about your question. What has really changed in the last six months? And I think it’s this: I think that smart companies are now realizing that what they need to measure is different from what they needed to measure six months ago.

Okay. What do I mean by that? Six months ago, I think companies were measuring stats like impressions and clicks and traffic and looking at that as, “Okay. We’re getting an audience.” And probably they were happy with that because they had the human interface still as part of their marketing plan, like conventions and conferences and travel and trade shows. So for digital marketing, they were happy with what I would call lower-level metrics. Okay. Impressions and stats and things like that, that kind of digital visibility.

What’s changed now is the stat that people want to measure now, six months into this pandemic is real engagement. Conversations, Zoom calls, or meetings like this, where you’re actually looking somebody in the face – all right, we’re not in the same room, but we’re the next best thing to it. It’s these types of real human interactions, that smart companies – and we’re pushing our clients to do it—it’s like, this is what you need to measure.

How many of these did you do this week? Because if you’re not getting the prospect to a Zoom meeting, then it’s probably not a conversation that’s moving forward. So the old metrics of web traffic and things like that, I think are very quickly becoming a secondary part of the equation. You’ve got to find a way to have that human connection now. That’s got to become the metric, I think, six months into this.

RT:
That’s it.

GK:
That’s my take, what do you think?

RT:
You nailed it. One hundred percent agree. I think we’re all in that phase. But I mean, I can just talk to the other side of it, but also the customer’s changing. It’s like you discussed, yeah, everybody should get in front of the customer virtually because our sales teams, our control sales team’s global and we’ve… I’ve been pushing this for the last year as I’ve been…

You want to lead by example, and I’ve been trying to lead by example for the last year with our company, the formal organization, putting myself out there and being uncomfortable, because it is. We just say, we’re all digital, but sometimes we don’t like the way we sound, we don’t like our voice, we don’t like the way we look, but at the end of the day, this is the same way we look when show up for a meeting.

GK:
Yeah.

RT:
What’s the difference? Sometimes you don’t think about it that way. You show up the same way, you look the same. You’re going to look the same in-person or on video and sound the same.

GK:
Right.

RT:
…But it’s also that getting uncomfortable. But you can’t push and push because also the customer and the buyers, the engineers and those things on the other side, the OEM or the component manufacturers or whatever, the widget manufacturers, medical, wherever we are going to are – they also have a resistance to get on the video call too.

So there’s both sides to it. And I think all corporations and all leaders, all businesses at this point until there is some site of some type of normalcy, which won’t be a new… There’ll be a new… We’re moving forward. We’re not going to ever go backwards.

GK:
Sure.

RT:
But this is the way, because I think once we can travel freely and visit, there won’t be as much travel in my opinion, because there’s no need, because now we have the… we’re using the digital product. So you don’t have… Like, I used to have to travel for a meeting in Singapore. I fly there 24 hours for a meeting and I fly back. If it was a relationship building that makes sense, but not just for having a meeting, be present.

That’s what I was doing. I was traveling internationally or even travel across the States for six hours. I’m like, “Wait, we could do this over a Zoom call now.” We can just sit there and it saves time, energy. Time is money. People’s time traveling, time for the… Operations cost the company. I mean, there’s a lot of costs are saved that we can invest in other ways and do more work at it.

So I think that’s really… the digital age has been accelerating in the last six months, as you said, is and everybody getting out of their comfort zone, understanding and embracing the change and leaning into it instead of standing on the sidelines and just waiting for it to go back to some more and more mostly in the past and… Everything is moving forward, we’re moving forward.

That’s one thing I love when you’ve been sharing, a lot of stuff, the content you’ve been sharing is, it’s funny some of these presentations you did a year ago are very present to today’s world, right? You had a vision a year ago or two years ago, and now you’re taking some of these videos of content, “Hey, I told you guys.” It’s kind of like I told you so.

GK:
[Laughs] –If I predicted the pandemic, I wouldn’t be working now!

RT:
Yeah. But overall you had a vision. Your vision, as your firm, Lectrix has a vision. I mean, you have a vision that you saw and your team is executing a lot of things you want to do and learning from that. But it’s also going back to how, really, is the feedback from your customer side, how is that feedback coming?

GK:
Yeah. So I’ll share a little sort of story with you that going back to this “We’ve all got to move forward” idea. And I think you’re right. You’re right on there, Rob. So in May this year, so think about that. That was three months only, only 12 weeks into the pandemic.

So I called all of our clients and said, “Hey, I want to do a round table with you. We’re all going to get on Zoom. It’s going to be 90 minutes to two hours. I want to have a real discussion with you. I know you’re doing a lot of Zoom meetings. That’s not the question. The key question from the meeting was this, what have you learned from the changes that you’ve made so far in the last 12 weeks?” Remember this is May 2020, and which of those changes are you going to keep when the pandemic’s over? And which are you going to go back to doing the old way? That was the key question.

The funny thing was, so we had 10 clients on a Zoom call for about 90 minutes, okay? I would never be able to get 10 of my clients in a room in-person, like pick a city like Chicago, LA, whatever, the calendars would never have allowed it. So this was quite a unique thing to actually get a good chunk of Lectrix clients all together in one room.

So we had the discussion, and it was pretty jaw-dropping for me to find out that only 12 weeks in, the group was fairly unanimous that for existing business, as you were just saying, if it was a relationship building thing, sure. You’d make the effort. Not that we’re lazy, but you do want to kind of get face-to-face for certain situations and certain conditions. But they had said… They’d pretty much decided that they were not going back to doing things like QBR, quarterly business reviews on a trip. One of my clients, and I’ll leave him anonymous, told me that they have 10 distributors, so they do a quarterly business review. So that’s 40 meetings between him or the RSMs. He was the head of sales.

And a meeting on a Wednesday would mean traveling on a Tuesday, a hotel on a Tuesday night, a two hour meeting on a Wednesday morning, maybe a little bit of social on a Wednesday night, maybe even stay Wednesday night and then fly back. So three days out of his week, were shot for a two hour meeting. He said, “I don’t know why we ever did that. It just doesn’t make sense.” And this is the—the end of the story. He had already gone to his senior management team and he shared with us that he had a $300,000 T&E budget, travel and entertainment.

RT:
Entertainment. Okay.

GK:
And he’d already told the management team, I want this cut in half next year. Well, who gives up budget? This guy wasn’t giving up the budget. He was saying, keep 150 for traditional T&E, because there will be engagement, fresh clients, new faces we want to meet.

He said, but the other 150, I want to put that into finding new customers, i.e. digital marketing and things like that. And he’d already made the decision after 12 weeks because he said, he and the CFO had had a discussion. Why would we go back? It just doesn’t make any sense. And if the CFO had had his way, it probably would’ve all 300,000 would have gone digital, but wasn’t that amazing after only 12 weeks that we’d already adapted?

RT:
Yeah. And I would think a lot of… That mindset is kind of a little rare, not everybody thinks that way, but it’s fantastic. Because at end of the day, as a sales person, you want to build out like, “Hey, this makes sense. I could be more productive. I can do stuff more digitally. And if I can get more of a spend to be able to touch more customers, there’s more touch points. If I’ve got more tools and a more arsenal to have a prospect… prospect more customers.”

Yeah, it’s going to cost money to make money. Is it targeting, to have more of that tool set, and more knowledge, more training, more… it’s going to help me produce more revenue. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win. It’s a win-win for that.

And that’s one thing I want to take a step back. It’s actually a great topic, we’re on this with the corporate and the personal, and this is— what’s your thoughts right now between the corporate and personal branding and how those are very synonymous today? How do you feel that with your customers today creating their personal brand and not just using the corporate brand?

GK:
Right. Well, let’s take the personal side first. I think it’s been a huge challenge for anybody whose primary role is sales, whether you’re sales director, an RSM, a sales rep, that lack of opportunity to get face-to-face with customers has obviously been a huge challenge and some have embraced it and some… I was speaking to somebody just a week or so ago, and they were talking about the customers they were going to visit, they were waiting to visit for when the pandemic was over. And so my question was, well, how long do you think you’re going to be waiting? And there was a bit of a silence.

I don’t think you can wait. I think you’ve got to take the bull by the horns, because it’s not just, to your question, it’s not just about making sales, but it is the personal branding. And I’ve done a couple of LinkedIn sessions recently on this with ECIA. I think you commented on one-

RT:
Yeah, I used their content for my team. I thought it’s fantastic. Anybody else out there, you should listen to it.

GK:
Yeah. You’ve got to be able to build your personal digital brand now. You might be well known in the industry and that’s fine for the people that you already know, but what about the people that you don’t know? You got to figure out how to do that digitally. And so LinkedIn for example, is a tremendous tool for that. I coach people on taking a second look at their LinkedIn profile and put a value proposition statement there, where you put your job title. You’ll know where I’m talking about.

RT:
I know.

GK:
You’ve got your picture, you’ve got your name, you’ve got your job title. Why put the job title in? You’re not job hunting. This is a great place to build your personal brand, explain to customers, especially future customers, what… If you’re going to connect with them, what’s the value you’re bringing to the table?

“Hey, I’m a specialist in design solutions involving connectors,” as opposed to I’m the field sales manager for company X, Y, Z Connector Company. Little things like that, but big things like content. If you want to build your brand, you got to bring people solutions. And I think a lot of people still mistake the word solutions for products. Products are not solutions. Ideas are solutions.

Content on how to change the design of a printed circuit board or wiring or a harness or whatever, that kind of content is a solution. And I think that’s what customers, as they go into buying mode are looking for. That’s what they’re going to connect with. And that’s how you establish a rank with them. It’s got to be down those lines.

RT:
You nailed it. Yeah. That’s it. It’s creating that content, creating this… because everybody… I think we’re just into resharing information. Because as I said, for myself from the corporate side, there’s the corporate branding companies that you represent or you work for, they have their image. They spend millions of dollars in their corporate branding. They might have videos, but at the end of the day it’s like as a personal brand, you can’t just take that content and just reshare it. You have to make it your own.

You have to build some value with it, and then you share it. I mean, you repurpose it and share it as your own, not as just sharing. And that’s one thing, as I said, LinkedIn for, as you say, LinkedIn is the most powerful networking tool for the electronics industry.

GK:
Yeah. And I’d add one more thing to that as well, Rob, I’ve been super impressed with how you’ve pulled together this Real Talk show in such a short time. The distribution space is very competitive as you know, but to create that visibility for IBS, if you want to talk about corporate branding, I think what we’re doing right now is a fabulous example of how to do it on the corporate level. And in your case, you’ve combined it with the personal level at the same time, that’s very difficult to do. So I take my hat off to you.

RT:
Oh, thank you. Thank you.

GK:
But the point I want to make is video. I noticed… And people who know me see that I’m pretty frequent contributor on LinkedIn. My text based contributions were starting to trend down. And I think a lot of the reason was there’s so much content was coming out as the pandemic began. And as I noticed that our visibility was trending down we decided, okay, well let’s test out video.

The moment we started testing video, the numbers shot back up, especially the short videos. It’s so easy to do right now. For those of you watching, obviously you see Rob and his team have put together a very impressive set up for the Real Talk show, but you can do this with a simple stand, a couple of lights-

RT:
And a phone.

GK:
… and an iPhone. If you’ve got something interesting to contribute, video is just, gets so much more interaction on LinkedIn than anything else. So think video folks.

RT:
Yes. And I thank you for that. Thank you for your wisdom and knowledge and experience. Yeah, video— and I remember when we first met in that classroom and you’re doing the presentation, the seminar, and I answered a question. You’re like, “You’re Rob Tavi! You guys should follow him!”

And that was the… I was doing all those videos from my phone. I did for about almost a year. I made content just looking at my phone, a little microphone and just a good light and started with an iPhone. Now we’re here. And that’s really what I did and through that, I agree a hundred percent everything you said. Myself, I invested. We took some of the budget from our marketing or from our trade shows and we invested and built a little studio and, hey, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but at the end of the day, you just need to make mistakes. You fail, you go. That’s the way you learn.

I’m not a marketing— I’m a business person, I went to school for business, everything – I’ve never been a marketing person. Everyone’s like, you’re a marketer now. I’m like, well, I think I’m just learning it as we go and I am teaching myself. I read a lot of books. I watch a lot of videos.

And for me, videos, or audio books really are much easier for me, because I can do it at the gym working out, in the car, I can listen to constantly, right. And I constantly get this positive feedback. Of course shout out to Gary V, which really did that too. I know you are a Gary V fan. That’s really helped us.

GK:
Right.

RT:
And he’s a pivotal person in the market, man. Some people might not like him because of the vernacular and the words that he uses, but he’s real and that’s who he is. Not everybody likes him, but millions and millions of people do like him. Maybe some people don’t, but hey, but he’s got a point out there and you just have to put yourself out there.

GK:
Yeah. He was a grassroots guy at one time. He was just running his father’s wine store in New Jersey and was trying to figure out how to sell more wine. He didn’t realize, I think that he was on the front end of a massive wave of digital marketing, heavily supported by video. But look at your case, Rob, here’s a quick case study for people. The ERA conference was in Austin in the last week of February this year-

RT:
February, yes.

GK:
Right? So six months ago. So I get to the conference and in my LinkedIn feed up pops this video from Rob Tavi. I had never heard of Rob Tavi until the day of the start. And Rob was just basically… Remember you were just saying, “Hey, this is the first time we’re going to be here. Just want to say shout out to everybody. I’m really looking forward to meeting a lot of people. I’m from IBS, would really want to get involved in the community and I look forward to meeting people this week.”

And I felt, “Wow, what a brave thing to do!” I’m not sure if I would have the guts to go to a conference and just distribute a video like that. But look how fast that’s elevated your brand and IBS brand. And I mean this for everybody, just to think about what Rob’s done through video in the last six months, both in terms of… We knew about the pandemic then, didn’t we?

RT:
We knew it was the beginning. It was the beginning.

GK:
But I don’t think we had any clue-

RT:
No shutdowns. That was before shutdowns.

GK:
–No clue what it was going to be. So call it brilliance, call it luck, or a little bit of both Rob, but you did it.

RT:
No, we did it, and we’re doing it together right now. We’re doing it together right now.

GK:
That’s right.

RT:
Oh no, I love it, Graham. So I want to take a step back and we’re talking about some of the services, some you do. I think you brought up a talk before discussions about the co-ops and how that’s really working. And that’s an area that you’re seeing the change is happening because of digitalization.

GK:
Yeah. This is something I’ve been talking about for a couple of years, and we’ll be talking about it more over the next coming months. This is a point of marketing in the components industry that I think, I believe we’re going to see some significant evolution happening, especially as we go into the 2021 budgeting cycle.

Co-op has traditionally, and I’m referring to co-op marketing for those of you who are not familiar with just the brief term co-op, I’m talking about the co-op marketing that happens between component makers and their distributor partners. In 2019, I counted that I visited 26 companies in-person and I made it a point of informal research to say, “Hey, how’s your co-op marketing going?”

And for those that were doing it, which was the majority, the answer was generally the same. I’m not going to get into the stats of it all because I did it very informally, but everybody said could be better, could be better. Some said could be a lot better.

And I think what they were referring to was, what we were chatting about 10 minutes ago, the old stats of we’re getting nice metrics, we’re getting lots of people visiting our page on the distribution site, or we’re getting lots of traffic to our own site. We’re getting click throughs on newsletters. We’re getting impressions on banner ads. But what we can’t see is if that is actually having an impact on the business. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but we can’t see that it is having an impact on the business. So I’ve been pushing now for a couple of years with distributors that we work with and of course our own Lectrix clients to really rethink co-op.

And I think because of the pandemic, those dollars, those digital marketing dollars, I think going into the next budget cycle are going to come into some real focus from the component makers to say, “Okay, how are we going to spend this?” And so my message to Lectrix clients and really to any component maker watching is to really take some time this Q4 to rethink the co-op piece. And I think it’s going to happen naturally. This isn’t just because I’m saying it.

I think the co-op dollars are going to come under some real scrutiny going into the next budget cycle. Because we’re typically talking a lot of money, at least tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. And now that we see what can be done with digital marketing, I think the question in a lot of people’s minds and definitely in mine is if you applied some of these newer marketing techniques to the co-op marketing budget, what could we actually accomplish with that?

So to give you some specifics, Rob, I mentioned the Schaffner case study earlier. It’s eminently possible now within digital marketing to tie real ROI, real customers, real transactions, real purchase orders back to specific marketing campaigns. It’s absolutely doable. It’s not easy. I’ll say that, but it can be done.

And I think it’s really time that co-op budget and those co-op dollars came under the same kind of scrutiny as the rest of the marketing effort, because often it can be 50% of the total marketing effort, sometimes even three quarters. So this is a piece of the evolution of digital marketing in the component space, that I think is coming very fast and I encourage people to take a good look at it.

RT:
Yeah, I agree. I think it was on a very macro base in the past and it’s going to get really micro because we have the ability digitally, and with the content we have, to measure it, and the DNA and the footprint –where it went, where it landed. Even, I mean, to give you a little analogy, even our CRM system. I know whoever comes to our website, what company they’re from, where they came from, where they’re located. I mean, if our CRM system for our website can do that, what else do you think that marketing can do now?

These are things that it’s really getting micro and I think the awareness of understanding it and companies like yourself bringing that to this forefront when doing a presentation and understanding, “Hey, we can do this and we can guide you and consult you what we can do with the measuring all of these campaigns, new product introductions. We want to get into the eyes of the right…” as I said, earn the seat at the table.

At the end of the day, you want to earn your product’s seat at the table for any opportunity for any product and you can do that.

GK:
Yeah. I mean, this isn’t just something as well that only Lectrix can do. Anybody can do this. A lot of the component makers watching this show probably use Buddy Marketing. These are the guys that aggregate the data from the distributors on a monthly basis to identify things like first time buys. You can take that first time buyer report now and track it back to specific marketing activities in your calendar, say three months prior or six months prior.

People can do this themselves. They don’t need us to do it. Of course we’d love to help them if we can, but all the data is there, all the tools are there, the metrics are there, the techniques are there. You’ve just got to focus a little bit and pull it together. And that’s how you grow your business. Once you know where the traction is, once you know where the opportunities are, you just start doing more of it.

RT:
Yup. That’s all it is. You start doing it and you start winning more in the ROI. Everybody says what’s the ROI, what’s the ROI? And as I said, consistency, showing up and evolving are the name. The main thing right now is you just have to show up and evolve and put the time and the reps and effort in.

And I think all of us in the electronics industry and many other industries, but this is where we are in, is we all need to just make sure and do that. And at the end of the day you can show up, and the two biggest search engines in the world – the Google and YouTube are the number one and two biggest search engines in the world – you can find anything you want.

So if you don’t embrace change, just go watch a video. And that’s one thing I come back to step back is we’re all at that, you said video is much more attractive or the clips, 30 seconds, 60 seconds. I think the consumer end of the phones, of the Instagrams and Facebooks and video, we get attracted to that much faster. So our eyes are getting… Actually our psyches are getting used to just watching video. I’d rather watch a video clip than reading two, three paragraphs or a white paper.

Yeah, of course white papers are good for some points, but the video and the value and the service and the connecting with a human or something being out there, and even fancy videos, don’t do it anymore. There has to be a human connection. In my opinion, I think there has to be a human.

GK:
Right.

RT:
The Fancy-Schmancy for the production doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s just that human, straight I’m talking to you, you feel me, you empathize, leading with empathy. These are the things that really are… especially today. Empathy is big.

GK:
And I think as well, Robert, I don’t know what you think, but I think it also has a lot to do with the time of day that you devote to that kind of education. So you said you like audio books because you listen to them when you’re working out. So the medium has got to match the time and the place that people are going to devote time to that. And I think that’s often why video is so powerful.

I imagine your day is probably not dissimilar to mine. It’s a million miles an hour when I’m working. And so when you want to sit down and just do a little self-education it, maybe it’s at the beginning of the day when you’re working out or maybe when it’s at the end of the day, sitting down with a cocktail and I’m going to flip through LinkedIn and I’m going to stop and watch those videos, but they’ve got to be one, two minutes, or I’m going to set time aside at the weekend, if it’s 45 minutes. I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to watch that.”

So you’ve got to understand I think as you choose the medium, the place and time that you think people are going to consume it as well. I think that’s another critical piece.

RT:
That’s good. Yeah. I hundred percent agree. So as we’re getting down to the last final minutes, the question I have for you I ask for everybody is, what do you see in the future of the industry and in the forefront as we’ve changed – really fast accelerating, but what are your insights and what’s the message you can give out to everybody in the industry, from your wisdom and knowledge from Lectrix?

GK:
Okay. Yeah, you prepped me for this one. So I gave this one a little bit of thought as well. And certainly this is what I’d like to see. I’m not sure if it’s really what’s going to happen, but I have a certain amount of confidence about it.

So if you compare our industry to the software industry and the pharmaceutical industry, I actually went and looked up some numbers and they’re very similar in size. The consumer electronics industry is 1.2 trillion in 2017. It will be 1.8 trillion in 2024. Okay, the software industry. Sorry, that was the consumer electronics industry. The software industry 1.1 trillion, pharmaceuticals will be 1.17 trillion next year. So they’re all very, very similar.

But if you look at how marketing functions in those other industries, generally speaking, it’s a lot more advanced, it’s more heavily budgeted, marketing departments are much bigger. It’s a much more sophisticated effort than we currently see generally in our industry. And I’m emphasizing generally because there are some companies in our industry that clearly are leaps and bounds above the rest of the industry in terms of their marketing ability.

I think we’re going to see a wave of advancement in technology for marketing, for things like marketing automation, for example. I think we’re going to see an investment in marketing teams or outsourcing whether it’s an internal team or an external team. I think companies are going to realize, especially probably driven by this pandemic, which really forces you to rethink the digital strategy is like, how can we invest to grow the business? So I think marketing as a whole is probably going to come to the forefront a lot more for our industry than it has done in the past.

I think that’s probably what we’re going to see more of in the next year to two years. I think the margins are there to support it. It just traditionally has not been a big thing, but I think it is going to be a big thing. Because I think this pandemic has probably got a couple of years legs on it unfortunately. I hate to be the-

RT:
Bearer of bad news. Yeah. I know that.

GK:
…bad guy in the room sort of thing, but I don’t think we’re close to solving it yet. And I think what we saw immediately in the first 90 days of the pandemic was CEOs and senior managers very quickly rethinking their digital approach to the market. And I think that’s why I’m saying, I think we’re going to see a nice evolution in how companies go to market digitally in our industry, which you haven’t seen before. That’s my take.

RT:
I could not agree with more. I’m right in the same line. Cannot agree more. I think you nailed it right there. I mean, I think this is why I love talking to you, Graham. It’s like, we’re on the same wavelength.

GK:
Love talking with you, Rob! We always have good stuff to talk about.

RT:
You are so articulate the way you explain it and understand it. And I love listening to you. And of course I think the accent does help too. You’re very persuasive in that. That’s hey, these are the things, attributes that we have. We use them and I think it’s fantastic.

GK:
[Laughs] But try telling my kids that. They say, “Dad, you’ve been here 25 years and you still can’t talk properly.”

RT:
Oh no. One day when they grow older, they may be like, I was wrong. Because – as I said, we all, as kids, we didn’t realize the wisdom that’s… I was the same. I’m guilty as charged. But very good, Graham. Thank you for your time. Thank you for giving me this time.

GK:
Thanks, Rob.

RT:
…Even on vacation, giving me all the time.

GK:
Really appreciate the honor and the opportunity to be on Real Talk.

RT:
And I would love to-

GK:
Keep it going.

RT:
Yeah. I would love to do this maybe quarterly. We do our QBR. We do it quarterly. We keep up, I think this is good because really things-

GK:
Let’s have our own quarterly business review.

RT:
Yeah. Quarterly business at our Real Talk. Quarterly business review.

GK:
Love it.

RT:
Yeah. Love to do that. So thank you very much. And as I always leave all my videos is, remember everybody be smart, be thoughtful, be generous. Thanks Graham. And see you guys again soon.

GK:
Thanks Rob.

RT:
Thanks.

GK:
Real pleasure.

RT:
No problem.

GK:
Keep it going, man.

RT:
Thank you.